Shoes, coats, school blazers, toys, films, flavours, ears… Vocation. Things that you can grow in to. Now, I am the youngest sibling, traditionally the place of hand me downs and “you’ll grow in to it”; but being the youngest of only two, being different genders and going to different secondary schools, my time of waiting to grow in to stuff as a child was minimal.
But, that last one on the list, that one I’ve been waiting to grow in to for years, and have a feeling I’ll be growing in to it for the rest of my life.
It has been over 10 years since my first conversation about my vocation. I was just a baby 18 year old, still at school, when I tried to express something I didn’t have the words for, managing to get some half coherent sentences out about “wanting to be a vicar”. I don’t blame the people I had that chat with for using the old chestnut of needing more life experience, because I did! Granted, it had been only 2 years since my mum died and in lots of ways I had more life experience than people 5 years my senior; but in many other, vital, ways I needed to gain experience. I needed to grow in to my vocation, heck at that point I needed to grow in to myself!
And so, life carried on, and I experienced it, I moved away from home, and came back and then moved away again, then came back, then moved out properly. I learned hundreds of things, some of it in lectures at uni. Had jobs I loved, had jobs I hated, didn’t get a job I thought I deserved and got one I never dared to dream of. I fell in love, many times. Came out. Fell in love a bit more and met the one. Worked out who I wasn’t and tried to work out who I am.
I grew into myself, it took ten years and I am by no means there yet; I know there is more growing up to be done, I still laugh when someone says bum. But I grew into who I am becoming.
Five years through all that growing up, apparently it was time for another mention of the old V word. Someone asked if I’d ever thought about ordination, and rather than say yes and try to express a little more of what I couldn’t the first time, I told them they were mad. At that point the growing was painful. It felt like I would never and could never grow in to this increasing sense of call on my life, this endless tug to something that I didn’t understand and at that moment felt out of reach. For a little while I couldn’t get through a conversation about ordination without crying.
Cut to about 2 years ago, and the time finally felt right to try it all on again. To try once more, to express something that still doesn’t always make sense. To see whether the Lex that had done 8 years of growing in to herself was any closer to growing in to her vocation. And steadily, painfully (still), but with the help of the systems within the Church designed to help you make sense of vocation, I took a step towards what I had been growing in to.
And all at once realised that it was the right size and too big at the same time. Because, as much as I’d grown, that’s the point of a vocation, it grows with you. There will always be room to move, to grow, to stretch and it will often feel like it’s too big for you. But you just have to keep it on and carry on growing.
It put me in mind of the song which titles today’s blog, from the Disney film Moana. Moana has multiple calls on her life, and ultimately hers is a story of realising that the apparently opposing calls can actually work together, and she needs to have a bash at one to realise she can grow into the other. She is mesmerised by the sea surrounding her tribe’s island and, staring out to the horizon she sings, “See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me. And no one knows, how far it goes. If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me. One day I’ll know, if I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go.”
It seems to me that the horizon is a lot like a sense of vocation on someone’s life. It’s mysterious, seems dangerous and feels miles away. But it calls to us to be brave enough, to get in the boat and chase it. And when we do, we will realise it is closer and further away than we imagined. There will always be more horizon, wherever we are in the world. And our call, our vocation, will always be bigger than us; as soon as we grow in to something it calls us on to more.
This little reflection has been prompted by the fact that I’m in the boat, about to set sail. On Monday I officially start training for ordination, in one sense I have finally grown in to that vocation I first tried and failed to talk about 10 years ago. But what I know now is that I will never fully grow in to, that is the beauty of the call and He who calls. But with my eye on the horizon and God’s power in my sails, who knows how far I’ll go?
Today my prayer is for all of us as we grow into and make sense of the calls upon our lives. For those who are still trying to find the words to articulate it to someone. For those who have been knocked back and feel disappointed. For those taking their time to grow into something that feels impossible. For those for whom the growing is painful. And for those who find themselves in the boat, about to embark on new adventures towards the horizon. That we would rest in the knowledge that the horizon will always be bigger, that the call is beautiful and the caller is good. Who knows how far we’ll go?